Shannon Greene of Elite SEM -- A 1stFive Profile

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Shannon Greene, Account Executive at Elite SEM, definitely fits the bill of a modern Millennial, proving to be highly self-motivated and determined early in life. Before she got her driver's license, Shannon had to travel two hours via train, bus and cab to get to high school. Despite such a lengthy commute, she showed up at varsity basketball practice five days a week (plus some weekends). Sports were a large part of her life growing up in East Brunswick, NJ, and this passion led her to study Sports Management and Economics at Rutgers University.

With dreams of working in the sports and entertainment worlds, Shannon spent much of her time in college working internships with the former New Jersey Nets (now the Brooklyn Nets), the Philadelphia 76ers and Madison Square Garden. From her experience she learned that a corporate atmosphere wasn't the right fit, but having enjoyed marketing in past roles, Shannon shifted gears and pursued an internship with search marketing firm Elite SEM.

"The way I applied was by e-mailing everyone whose e-mail I could find on the website and asking to come in and learn," she says of her ambitious beginnings with the company. As a college junior, Shannon was a newbie to the digital world. She worked in the New York office under the wing of then-Senior Account Executive Marc Weisinger, who brought her up to speed. "I owe the majority of my success in this industry to him," says Shannon. "He definitely pushed me and set the bar high." Two promotions later and now an account executive herself (in the Atlanta office), Shannon has worked to create the current, more formal intern program.

In addition to Marc, her mentors include Abby Stone, Elite SEM's Vice President of Paid Media, and her parents. "[Abby] has had an enormous impact," Shannon shares. "Being a woman in business and at Elite, she's totally paved the way for me and has been a huge support system and great friend." Her mother and father have also had a huge influence on her, providing support and encouragement. Both of Shannon's parents worked their way through school. Her mother has since worked for their church for the past 30 years and her father is the Senior Vice President of Healthcare Lending at TD Bank. "Their overall parenting style was hands off. I still don't know how my sister and I turned out okay," joked Shannon, mentioning that the most important thing her parents taught (as it pertains to her career) has been how to adapt to adversity and to work hard. (Shannon, below left, is pictured with colleagues from Elite SEM opening a library in Nicaragua in February, 2016.)

Shannon (left) with group from Elite SEM opening a library in Nicaragua (February 2016)

Shannon is now back in school for her MBA at the Georgia Institute of Technology in addition to working full time. "I wanted to get a better idea of other areas of business and not be so siloed in marketing, specifically search," she says. "I'm taking classes to make me a better account manager and to understand the wider scope of business … reading financial statements, pricing adjustments and operations."

"It's three hours a night, three times a week in class and a lot of weekends meeting up with peer groups to work on papers, tests and assignments," explains Shannon of her academic workload. She says that her role in the marketing and advertising industry demands much more than a standard 40-hour work week (alluding to an "always on" 24/7 media landscape), but that her company has been extremely supportive.

"We have a great culture at Elite," she says. "I can work from home whenever I need to and we have unlimited leave days. As long as I'm getting my work done, they're 100% for it." The company has won a host of awards for its company culture, ranking #1 in's 2015 Top Company Cultures list. While they have the perks to prove it, including corporate trips and free lunches, Shannon says there's more to it than freebies. Elite SEM founder Ben Kirshner requests for new employees to submit bucket lists, making it his goal to help each team member accomplish some of their goals in one way or another.

Shannon with Atlanta Search Team at Elite SEM's 2015 Holiday Party

"My favorite part about working in the industry is using my brain every day and working with great people," says Shannon. "It [doesn't] matter what we do every day if I'm able to be creative, think about strategy and be in a great environment with a great culture." (Shannon, in the Santa hat, is pictured above with the Atlanta Search Team at Elite SEM's 2015 Holiday Party.)

Elite SEM has quadrupled in size since Shannon first started, now employing around 140 people across eight offices. Shannon's day-to-day involves managing clients' digital marketing budgets, devising strategies and implementing initiatives to help clients reach their growth and efficiency goals. "We provide industry insights and guidance, and we're an extension of their marketing team," she explains. Elite SEM works with major search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo! and social players like Facebook and Twitter to implement search, retargeting and display efforts for clients in a range of industries, including hospitality, finance, home services, e-commerce and retail.

In working with clients, Shannon monitors customers who may have visited the website but didn't complete a purchase. "We see their activity on-site and target ads toward them to make sure they're going back to follow through with our desired actions," she says, explaining that tracking trends and analyzing data is also fundamental to her work, which she uses to develop further strategies. A major challenge Shannon foresees in the data realm is attribution. She has noticed that there are few ways to track how different metrics interact with one another. The saying "correlation does not imply causation" holds true.

Millennials should not be viewed as a monolithic group. Shannon believes that Millennials chiefly want to be a part of something bigger than themselves, which involves continuously learning new things and adding value within a supportive environment. "A lot of people are really willing to go above and beyond as long as they feel like they're appreciated and actually making a contribution," she concludes.

The opinions and points of view expressed in this commentary are exclusively the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, Inc. management or associated bloggers.



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